Charter schools under more scrutiny

CLEVELAND -- Northeast Ohio has seen a dramatic increase in charter schools over the years.
Some of those schools are high performing, national models, but others are accused of using taxpayer dollars to pay for steak dinners and airfare.

In fact, taxpayers are still owed $30 million by failed charters. Ohio spends nearly $900 million on charter schools.

Cleveland has some of the state's top performing charter schools, but it's the schools that are shut down, leaving taxpayers holding the bag, that is a major issue.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, there are 367 charter schools in Ohio -- 60% of them had a D or F on the state report card.

On top of that, failed charter schools owe taxpayers $30 million and less than half a million has been recovered.

"It's not just abuse of taxpayers, but abuse of children's trust," says Ohio Auditor Dave Yost.

Yost is cracking down on charter schools, but critics say it's long overdue.

Most recently, a new audit says school officials of the Lion of Judah Academy -- on East 55th Street -- basically paid themselves
half a million dollars by giving contracts to their own businesses.

Previously, the auditor said $1.3 million dollars was misspent.

"This is outrageous, it is old- style kickbacks," says Yost. Several of those school officials have already pleaded guilty.

Next, is the former CASTLE school on Superior Avenue downtown. An audit last year found $1.8 million misspent. Ten people were indicted.

In another development, the FBI raided several Horizon Science Academy Schools here and across the nation, operated by Concept Schools. The feds are looking at how grants for technology were spent. No charges have been filed.

This school year, nearly 20 first-year charter schools shut down before the year was even over.

For the first time ever, the auditor's office is investigating what happened and why. They plan to present the findings to the legislature and hope to change charter school rules.


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